December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Metro Parks official put on leave after arrest

CARLISLE TWP. — Lorain County Metro Parks Treasurer Denise Gfell has been placed on paid administrative leave after she was charged with attempted child enticement Saturday in connection with an incident in Wellington in which she showed an 11-year-old boy her puppy and asked him to get Chinese food with her.

Metro Parks Director Dan Martin said the parks district will do its own review of facts in the case and will decide Gfell’s fate in consultation with its attorneys.

Gfell

Gfell

“We became aware of it and placed her on leave immediately,” Martin said.

Meanwhile, an arrest warrant also was issued Thursday afternoon for Gfell for allegedly violating terms of her probation in a 2008 drunken driving case, according to Beth Cwalina, chief probation officer for Oberlin Municipal Court.

A police report stated Gfell admitted drinking a couple of beers before the incident involving the 11-year-old boy.

Cwalina said Gfell was given a suspended 57-day jail sentence in connection with the 2008 conviction on the condition she have no alcohol-related arrests within a three-year period.

In earlier cases, OVI charges were reduced to lesser charges in 2002 and 2006, according to the Oberlin Municipal Court Web site.

Gfell, 52, of Penfield Township, was unavailable for comment Thursday, but her attorney Jack Bradley called her arrest on attempted child enticement charges “an overreaction to a lady who saw a young boy and thought he may be in need of some assistance.”

Bradley said Gfell was on her way to pick up an order at a Chinese restaurant when she saw the boy, who was alone at the time.

The boy’s father showed up as Gfell was speaking with his son and called police with a description of her car after she drove away, according to a police report.

After the encounter, Bradley said Gfell continued on to get her food.

“She came out and gets arrested. The moral of the story is ‘Don’t be a Good Samaritan when it comes to children,’” Bradley said.

At the time of her arrest, Gfell told police she had been a foster parent and had taken care of 16 children, but told police she could not remember the name of the organization she had worked for, according to the police report.

Bradley said his client was a foster parent and just could not remember the name of the agency at the time of her arrest.

Gfell has worked for the Metro Parks for eight to nine years and earns about $60,000 a year, Martin said.
Gfell’s personnel file shows she was given a two-day suspension from her Metro Parks job in 2008 after she failed to inform the office of her traffic violation and loss of driving privileges.

In the latest incident, Martin said Gfell was placed on leave after Metro Parks officials read about her arrest in a story in The Chronicle-Telegram published on Wednesday.

She also received a verbal reprimand on Jan. 20 for using 40 hours of personal leave without approval. Two days later, she received a written reprimand for taking time off and being compensated for that time by working longer hours or skipping lunch without supervisor permission.

On June 10, 2008, she received a written reprimand for being absent without approved leave.

She was given a verbal reprimand Jan. 31, 2008, for missing safety meetings.

Gfell pleaded not guilty to the attempted child enticement charge at her arraignment Tuesday in Oberlin Municipal Court. Her next hearing is Nov. 5.

Gfell was arrested after the boy’s father saw her talking to his son on Taylor Street around dinnertime Saturday and called police, according to Wellington police Chief Steve Rollins, who said he found her behavior troubling.

A police report stated that Gfell acknowledged talking to the boy and said she did because “he looked lonely and needed someone to care for him.”

She also said she asked the boy if he wanted to look at her puppy that was on the seat next to her in a handbag-like tote, according to a police report.

She will be held pending a hearing in Oberlin Municipal Court when she is arrested or turns herself in on the allegation she violated her probation, court officials said.

Gfell’s record

  • 1999: Speeding.
  • 2002: Failure to control.
  • 2003: Crossing yellow line, reckless operation and physical control.
  • 2006: Administrative conviction for positive breath test for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated; Gfell later convicted of physical control and disregard of safety of private property.
  • 2008: Administrative conviction for refusal of alcohol test.
  • 2008: Gfell takes three-day driver intervention program, was given a 57-day suspended jail sentence and was ordered to pay $960 in fines and court costs after pleading no contest to drunken driving. Fifty dollars of the fine is unpaid.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.